Of late the intellectual circles globally have been debating on the endogeneity/ exogeneity of the Covid-19 shock when it comes to the global economy. For the most part, they have reached close to classifying this pandemic as an endogenous shock. The ordinary business of a man in the common world consists of production and exchange. This process is taken to be the nervus-rerum of the economic system that the humans living in the biosphere undertake to make the normal life work and run. The processes of production and exchange take place in the biosphere where the humans live, take from the nature, and interact with other species. From the empirical evidence that has been found till now it is clear that the Covid-19 virus entered the economic system from the simplest path of the ordinary business of life. The human transmission of the virus from the animals took place in between this interaction of production and exchange of goods and services in some (random) part of the world.
Moving specifically to the case of Kashmir, the level of endogeneity of the pandemic into the Kashmir Economy is quite different from the rest of the world. For most part, the globe and the people living at various pandemic affected parts have seen such a crisis for the first time. The lockdowns, the unemployment crisis, government orders and regulations, curfews, strictness of police and administration, and other related things are a complete novelty for the people living outside Kashmir (for most part of it). Eventually a global theory of endogeneity can be charted out for the major chunk of the population. At the same time, for Kashmir and the people of Kashmir the amount of endogeneity the Covid-19 shock brings is not completely deterministic.
The shock of Covid-19 comes as just another piece of the long ongoing conflict jigsaw. The previous year there was the sudden abrogation of Article 370 removing the special status of the Jammu and Kashmir. An unannounced and undetermined curfew was imposed. Year 2016 saw the massive uprising of the people. In between there was the incident of ‘Braid Chopping’. To mention only a few shocks, hysteresis have been a regular and recurring part in this part of the world. As a result people are used to number of shocks and at the same time have an open list of expectations as to what can happen next. And how they are ready and willing to battle the same and proceed on the path of life in the midst of all these events.
To understand how the people across the rural and urban belts of the Kashmir region see this shock, we talked to a random sample of hundred people. Same questions were asked to the whole sample set. Explaining the meaning of endogenous and exogenous phenomenon and then asking about their perspective on such a classification of Covid-19, the educated chunk of people across rural and urban Kashmir agreed that it is exogenous as it originated from China and went on affecting the whole world including our part of the globe as well. The least educated and illiterate sample population believed in majority that this is just another hysteresis and there is no such thing as real active cases in the Kashmir Valley. More than 60% people from this category believed that Allah is enough to protect them from any sort of harm and they do not feel any special need to put on a mask or stay back home. Constant nudging by the police on maintaining social distancing and putting on a mask is seen by this fraction of the population as just another tactic of the state agencies to harass the common masses. A trend is seen across the whole sample that women have tended to stay indoors right from March 2020 as compared to the male population. Kids have been restricted within the households. While 85% urban households do not risk sending kids out even for tuitions, only 20% rural kids have been found to stay indoors. The explanation for the same as given by the parents is that there is not too much population in such areas and kids can play in orchids etc that keeps them automatically distant from the crowd.
On inquiring about the hysterical nature of the Covid-19 pandemic in Kashmir, there runs a common and mutual thread of thought across the whole valley. Having an experience of decades altogether, people believe that this is just another hysteresis to lock people inside their homes. 89% of the respondents believe that there is media hype in exaggerating the current Covid-19 crisis backed by the state. People think that the pandemic has arrived as just another opportunity for the administration to keep the people locked inside the households and presume some kind of unnatural and idealistic normalcy that otherwise doesn’t exist. A 100% of the respondent population believes that the police got an added advantage and excuse to harass the common people. By making various kinds of announcements, all the people believe that the civil administration and police is trying to fill the hearts and minds of the people with fear and panic.
People living in the urban areas, especially Srinagar show a higher acceptance to the Pandemic precautions. For the maximum part of the city, cases are reported from every nook and corner. Most of the respondents personally know Covid-19 infected people and are filled with fear of catching the virus. 75% of respondents from the urban areas claim on taking (almost) all the precautions advised by the authorities. At the same time, masses in rural areas agree that there is less population pressure and they especially do not feel the need of masks etc as such.
Altogether, the aggregate population of the Kashmir region takes the Covid-19 shock as exogenous in nature. The whole population, however, is filled with doubts and suspicions based on their whole life experience. They try to figure out the next mega-agenda and come up with all types of theories and conspiracy theories. This way the question of the Covid-19 shock being endogenous or exogenous doesn’t find much importance with the people of Kashmir region. Instead the development of next coping strategies seems to be of primary importance for the masses in general. People in general are more concerned about keeping the ends together and surviving through the challenging times that haven’t subsided for more than three decades.
(Dr.Javaid is a Senior Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics, Kashmir University specializing in Labour and Conflict Economics,
Dhaar Mehak is a Senior Research Fellow in the same Department, working on the Efficiency of Firms in J&K.